Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Progress Report - 1 Year in Review (Part Deux)


As I mentioned in my previous post, April 1, 2013 was the beginning of my fitness lifestyle change. I had no idea what that would entail nor did I imagine I would be where I am today. If there's one thing that I've learned from this on going journey, is that things that work for one person may not work for another. I have also learned that the body is a wonderful and complex thing. I've learned so much about myself this past year I have no idea where to begin. Things that I thought were impossible let alone conceivable happened. I accomplished things I never thought I was capable of. It was an exciting year full of successes and failures. While many people think that failure is a bad thing, I embrace it because it means that I'm learning and evolving. Without making mistakes you cannot grow and become a better person. I've learned that the "fitness lifestyle" is all about becoming better than you used to be.

I remember a few days into eating healthy I broke down in front of Panda. I was mourning over the fact that I couldn't have my favorite "bad" foods again. No fast foods, cookies, cupcakes, cake, etc. the usual stuff you "can't" eat when you start eating healthy. I had no concept of flexible dieting or "if it fits your macros" type of lifestyle or that you could eat those foods in moderation. Not that I had the ability to eat those foods in moderation as I still struggle with binge eating. While it's gotten better in the last year, its ugly face still peeks out from time to time. Panda just wiped my tears away and gave me a pep talk to get me smiling again. He's been my biggest cheerleader and supporter since I committed to becoming healthy. Even if I hadn't decided to clean up my plate, he would still have my back.

Over the course of the year I've lost 25 pounds and gained 5 of it back. So I lost a total of 20 pounds. May not sound like a lot, but losing weight for me has been one experiment after another. The first 15 came off simply by counting calories and portion control. As I mentioned in my last post, I had done the 1200 calorie diets before and they didn't end well at all. I was smarter this time around and decided to start with 1600 calories and used the My Plate app to track everything I put in my mouth.

I knew that I needed to create a deficit in how much I ate and figured that 1600 would be a good start since I wasn't consistent with exercising yet. Remember, I was taking one step at a time so I wanted to get the food part down before adding in another component. While this may not work for everyone, it really helped me to focus on one thing at a time. I tend to go all out and then crash and burn because I get overwhelmed and then I end up quitting. Taking baby steps has proven to be a successful method for me and I've been consistent with keeping the weight off and working out.

Two months after I started eating healthy and working out I was still feeling extremely lethargic and constantly tired. I couldn't figure out why as I was eating healthy, working out, taking my vitamins and getting 7-8 hours a sleep a night. Seems like things should've been okay right? I went to the doctor and had my labs drawn and got a physical. They checked everything - iron, thyroid, Vitamin D, cholesterol, blood sugars, food allergies, etc. Everything came fine except for one thing...I had a wheat allergy. It was 2 out of 5 (five being most severe) and the doctor shrugged it off like it wasn't a big deal. I was desperate to feel better as things were getting pretty bad. I was falling asleep driving to work, at work, I felt bloated all the time after eating and I had a mental fogginess that was hard to explain. The easiest way to describe it the feeling is like when you're severely hung over and find it hard to concentrate, think, etc. That's how I felt all the time without drinking. My boss at the time suggested going gluten free for a few weeks to see how I reacted to it as she had great success when she had tried. It was worth a shot since the labs came back semi squeaky clean.

I took the leap of faith and went completely gluten free after talking to a friend from the Livestrong forums who has been GF for some time now. Within days I had so much energy I didn't even know I had, the bloating was gone and I could think clearly for the first time in who knows how long. It was amazing, but it came with its inconveniences. My boyfriend and his family gave me a hard time when it came to eating as I had eliminated a lot of things from my diet that I had been eating with "no problems" prior. They had no conception of what I felt like prior to going GF nor did they understand how much better I felt without it in my diet. It's still a struggle today, but Panda is on board and understands how much better I feel. Unfortunately, the allergy has become more severe since I eliminated it from my diet. When I get "gluttened" the reaction is much faster and worse. I get hives and severe itchiness. I even recently discovered that I can't even eat GF oats anymore as I break out with patchy-eczema like spots all over.

While this wheat/oat allergy may sound like hell to most people, it was a blessing in disguise. As crazy as it sounds, it's true. I have struggled with binge eating my whole life and finding out that I'm allergic to 90% of the processed foods out there made it significantly harder to go out and binge. I can easily say no to the donuts, cakes, cookies, pizza, etc. at work because my body cannot physically handle it anymore. Do I miss it? Sure. Would I cheat and have some? Absolutely not. Feeling like crap for hours and days on end for a donut is not worth it anymore. While it's harder to binge, that doesn't mean it hasn't happened. There are GF replacements for just about every type of non-GF junk food out there and I've tried a lot of them. Most in moderation. ;)

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As you can see, this past year has been one food battle after another. This doesn't even include the injuries I endured either. In November I started working out at 4:30AM and within a few weeks I got tendonitis in my left quad. I laid off all leg work and cardio for 6 weeks until it got better. Within a few weeks of starting up my leg workouts again, I hurt my left hip flexor. Here's what I learned - mobility and proper warm-up is a crucial part of any weight lifting program, especially in the early morning. In addition to that, form is also key. Improper form almost always leads to injuries. I speak from experience (obviously). While I'm no expert when it comes to training, I have learned the hard way. So take it from me, be careful when you start a training program. Do your research, start light and focus on your form.

As I look back at this past year, I have accomplished a lot things and learned even more. When I first started lifting weights back in June 2013 I had no idea what a deadlift was. Eight months later, I hit a personal record and one rep max of 220 pounds! I've also become more disciplined with my food and have managed to mend my relationship with it. While I'm no where near perfect, I've managed to make fitness a lifestyle that is sustainable for me and that in itself is the biggest accomplishment of all. Diets have expiration dates and will set you up for failure. A lifestyle is just that - your life. How do you want to live your life? Do you want to be happy and healthy? If there's one thing that I've learned this past year, it's that life is too short to be unhappy and unhealthy. I also learned that it's okay to eat junk food in moderation because depriving yourself only causes bigger issues in the long run. So if you see a donut and you want to eat it, then do it. :)